See You At The Automat

So I was in a Starbucks today and… Alright, my bad, but I wasn’t quite as awake as I needed to be and the impaired faculties were the very ones I use to recall the location of cool coffee shops.

So I was in Starbucks and it wasn’t very busy, but there was a line. Starbucks2The woman taking the orders and the money was a real pip and greeted everyone as if it were the first day of kindergarten, over accentuating every syllable for the benefit of distracted young minds. “Hello, my name is Marielle. What’s yours?”

Now I’ve lived my entire adult life in New York City, which I understand is not a normal experience by any means, but rarely has anything good come from a stranger asking my name. So I experienced an inner cringe by the second time I heard Marielle’s singsong greeting. I didn’t have to think about what my response would be though. At this point it was involuntary.

I spent some time as a waiter in a very busy, see and be seen establishment and I found that the people who asked my name up front were trouble. All they wanted was to call to me throughout the course of their meal and obligate me, through presumptuous niceties, to spend more time doting on them than any of my other charges (who were, by the way, paying the same price for their meal). Conversely the people who asked me my name as things were winding down were always cool; either we’d built a rapport or they appreciated my service acumen enough to want to compliment me to my manager. So when people asked right away, I started telling them my name was Wanda.

Wanda worked out wonderfully. Picking a name that’s not even close to my own (and, sadly, far out of fashion) was sheer serendipity. Hearing “Wanda?” told me exactly what was going on, and where, without ever having to look away from the task at hand. And once the rest of the staff was hip to my routine, Wanda became code for “annoying” customer. If anyone ever complained about Wanda, my managers knew right off that dollars to doughnuts they were dealing with a shit heel. Only one patron ever caught on, but he also surmised why I did it and he didn’t make a fuss.

So Wanda is with me to this day. And when it came to getting my coffee this morning it was Wanda that Marielle had the pleasure of meeting. As I waited for my caffeine injection the woman in line behind me tried to skip the name game and went straight into her order. “I said my name is Marielle, what’s yours?” And she said it, not killing the woman with kindness, but daring her to be the one to mess with her positivity. She said it like a martyr. And the woman in line behind me, bless her soul, said, “Yeah, and that’s nice, but I’m not into sharing my name. So, I’d like a tall latte and…”

I’m a little in love with the woman in line behind me, even now. Because we were in Starbucks and, appropriately, there was nothing authentic going on there. As such, I feel we were entitled to the automated experience.

For real, super nice, gratuitously gregarious people behind the counter? That’s another story.


Hillery eventually learned not to say everything that came to mind. Some were too good not to write down.

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